Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Prop making can be FUN. But not for me.

So, I've been working on the staff, naturally. There's been a few... shall we say... hang ups along the way.

So I showed you all the cut out pieces. I was able to successfully drill holes all the way through my wooden balls for the metal bolts to connect everything, that wasn't too bad.

This was my work space and tools. Yes, that is a clamp attached to a bar stool with a kettlebell to weigh it down. A bit ghetto, but it totally worked. The glass of water was there because I learned a lot about friction and the heat it generates here, and I needed to be able to cool the drill bit and to keep my sawdust from being lit on fire. I definitely made some smoke doing this.

So I drilled the wooden balls. After that I needed to cut down the metal bolts I was using, they were pretty long and I didn't want to have to drill holes quite that deep. I tried my dremel first with a cutting attachment, with the bolt secured in the clamp. It worked, but it was difficult to control. So next I went to my hacksaw.

This little guy. He's just a mini saw, but I figured he'd be big enough for my purposes. (That's what she said!)  It was very difficult cutting the bolts with this, but easier to control than the dremel. But then halfway through the third or fourth bolt the blade on my saw broke. It was just the one that came with it in my tool kit, and I'd bought more some time ago so I'd have extras. I replaced the blade, and holy smooth easy cutting through solid metal, Batman! Apparently the blade that came on my saw was a shitty, shitty terrible blade, and when I replaced it with my decent ones, it just melted right through those bolts. It was wonderful. I got everything cut pretty easily. 

Next, I went on to drill my holes in the wooden segments. Figured it couldn't be much harder than drilling the wooden balls had been. (That's what she... said?) But I was wrong. (Foreshadowing! Dun dun duuuuuunnnnnn!)

I realized almost immediately something was different. I was drilling and drilling and drilling and almost nothing was happening. One quick google search later I come to realize the dowels I bought were OAK. Which is apparently an INTENSE HARDWOOD that usually requires INTENSE TOOLS and SPECIAL DRILL BITS to drill. Well that's good to know. So those were useless to me.

So the next day I went to the craft store and bought some new wooden dowels made out of some kind of generic garbage wood I'm sure, I couldn't find out what but it didn't feel like oak. This meant of course that I had to cut the pieces apart myself since my step dad had done the others for me on his table saw and I didn't want to take the time to take these over there again. Luckily I had a hacksaw with a spiffy new blade on it. So I marked it out, clamped the dowels down and cut them my own damn self. It wasn't too hard, which reassured me that this wood was much softer. (Awww, that's what she said. :(  )  I had a few somewhat crooked cuts before I got the hang of it, but it wasn't too bad. And I was able to straighten those out with my dremel and a sanding bit. I then proceeded to drill the holes for the metal bolts in each segment. It all took me most of a day, what with having to recharge the cordless drill occasionally.

I have since developed a strong hatred for cordless tools. Having to stop to charge a battery is just the worst thing ever.

Look at those pieces starting to connect! It was fun to get a better visual for how it would look all put together.  My joy was short lived however.

The next day, I began to assemble the pieces. Basically I'd dump a bunch of wood glue in the hole, put the metal bolt in, squish glue everywhere, and then slide the next piece over the bolt, with it's corresponding hole also filled with wood glue. Glue would just squish everywhere again, effectively covering both sides of the connecting pieces as well as the metal bolt. I went through so many paper towels cleaning up excess glue. I eventually got my proportions down so I didn't squish quite so much. I ended up having to give up on the idea of having it screw apart in segments for transporting because I needed a bigger drill bit to install the hardware for it, and I didn't have one, I'd been using the biggest one my brother had for his drill for the bigger posts for the joints anyways, and I didn't want to go buy a new drill bit. So I just glued the posts in without the extra screwing hardware.

As I assembled the pieces though, I began to realize that not one of these holes was drilled straight. And most of them didn't line up with each other. I mean, in retrospect this isn't surprising. I'm only human, with my imperfect unsteady hand, the chances that I could drill a bunch of perfectly centered absolutely straight holes are basically zero. If I'd had a drill press maybe I could have pulled it off, but I did not. As the pieces went together I just felt this horrible sick feeling when I realized how drunkenly crooked this thing was going to look. I almost quit halfway through, but I finished assembling just to see how it would turn out, all the while coming up with a plan B in my head. This was the result:

Look at that nasty, drunken curvy piece of crap. It's like it's not even trying!

 Wildly off center.
Trying for a goddamn 45 degree angle there? What was this?
I just... How drunk was I while drilling? (Zero. The answer is zero drunk. I have no excuse.)

And upon further inspection after the glue had set, it's not even a sturdy hold, the whole thing bends and warps even further than this if you leave it standing. It's own weight warps it! UUUUUUHHHG.  I HATE IT SO MUCH.

There was no way I could use it. Stu and Rachel (my roommate) tried so hard to convince me that it didn't look as bad as I thought, and maybe it didn't, maybe I'm just sunk into that creative place where all you can see is the flaws in your project, but all I knew is I couldn't live with this. I probably could have improved it with some sanding and gesso and more sanding, but at this point I didn't even want to look at this thing, much less put more effort into it. So I ditched it. I had another plan.

Luckily, plan B was an inexpensive and fairly simple one, and even more luckily, I had enough leftover pieces from the first one that I could return to stores to get enough money back that I wouldn't have to spend anymore to restart. Nothing could give me back my time and effort though... Sigh....

So this time, I bought the same wooden dowel, and a big bag of 1.8" styrofoam balls. Using my dremel I hollowed out the balls, making a hole big enough for the dowel to pass through, and just slid the balls into position, after I had measured and marked out every segment of the staff on the new dowels.

 I had to trim them down a bit to get the right length, and I had to do one join in the middle since I couldn't get just one dowel that was long enough, but by drilling very carefully I was able to make that one join pretty near perfect.

Look at that beautiful son of a bitch. It's ever so slightly off center, but that's easily fixed with some gesso and sanding. It was also a little crooked, but apparently they were crooked in opposite ways because I was able to twist them to make them align and stand up straight. You can't see it here, but I actually took a small piece of cardstock covered in wood glue and stuck it in between the two segments on one side just to make sure it was perfectly straight. Then once the glue was dry I just trimmed and sanded the extra cardstock away so it's totally invisible. I also drilled one more wooden ball for the one that's on the base of the staff, I knew styrofoam would be completely unacceptable for that one, the weight resting there would crush it. Luckily I had extras. And I was just using the pieces of metal bolts I had cut off earlier for support, they worked perfectly.

Look how lovely and straight it is! I just brushed wood glue over the places where the balls went and then slid them in place. Worked like a charm. I then coated the styrofoam balls in a thick layer of mod podge which has made them significantly stronger. The next step is coating them in gesso to smooth them. Well, when I say gesso, I mean what is essentially homemade gesso, a combination of joint compound and white glue that serves the same purpose as gesso and is a million times cheaper. 

I have also put a few more layers of papier mache on the hearts for the head, and I've painted the smaller balls that go in various places, as well as the actual garnet orb.

Those are just terrible pictures, my apologies. But you get the idea. I have also done away with the idea of trying to make the orb light up. I bought some dollar store LED candles with that thought in mind, but I cannot come up with a way to make the candles invisible while also being replaceable for when the battery runs out. So due to the time crunch, I'm not worrying about that. Maybe some other time if I redo this.

It was almost offensive to me how much easier this was. This version took me a quarter of the time and a tenth of the effort of the other terrible one. I should have just done this from the beginning. It would have been much cheaper too. Well, a little cheaper, I wouldn't have needed so many metal bolts, but those were like a buck each. The price difference wasn't really that much. Mostly it's the lost time and effort that I'm unhappy about. I have a Halloween party this Saturday and I have my doubts about whether Sailor Pluto is actually gonna have her Time Key Staff in time.  Man I wish I could really stop time...

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